‘Star Wars’ sees women stepping into the light

Sara GlynnBy Sarah Glynn | gargoyle@flagler.edu

In October of 2012 Disney announced they would be acquiring Lucasfilm, giving them full reign to the rights of the “Star Wars” franchise. I was worried. I grew up idolizing characters like Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo — out-of-this-world heroes wielding lightsabers, piloting great starships and using Jedi mind powers. As a 6-year-old watching with my dad, I was mesmerized. I wanted to be part of this universe, and watching these movies was about as close as I could get. Disney interfering gave me premonitions of a new cartoon-like fairytale, so far removed from what I had grown to love about Star Wars. Fast-forward to December of 2015, when “Star War: The Force Awakens” was released and I was completely and utterly blown away.

Without giving too much away about the premise, even though most of the planet has already seen it, let me introduce you to Rey. She’s a skilled pilot whose main goal in life is to reunite with her family, whoever and wherever they may be. Though there may be some debate as to who Rey is related to, there is no denying her awe-inspiring performance as a strong female lead in a normally male dominated Star Wars universe. The actress portraying Rey, Daisy Ridley, spoke about her role in the franchise. “Rey’s not important because she’s a woman, she’s just important,” Ridley says. “But obviously, having a woman like this in a film is hugely important.”

Rey (i.e. Daisy Ridley) is not the only woman to appear in the newest Star Wars installment. Original cast member Carrie Fisher revives her role as Princess Leia and, new to the Star Wars universe, we are introduced to First Order Captain Phasma, played by actress Gwendoline Christie. These three women together are powerhouses in front of the camera, but even more so, behind the scenes there is newly-anointed president of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy driving the force behind more female involvement.

Seasoned film producer and self-proclaimed fan girl, Kennedy worked closely with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg before taking over. When the opportunity to add another installment to the franchise presented itself, Kennedy took the initiative to add more women to the mix. According to NPR, females make up nearly half of her staff at Lucasfilm, including more than half on the development team for the newest movie.

After seeing the movie it made me realize what I had been missing all these years. Sure, Princess Leia had been a role-model to me to some extent, but in most of her scenes, she had been pushed aside by the boys and used almost as an object to gain something else. Seeing Rey on the screen, fighting side-by-side, inspired me as an adult.

The impact the film has had on hardcore fans and absolute newbies is immense. Flagler Junior Taylor Landwer gave her impression of the film, as a new fan to the Star Wars franchise. “It [The Force Awakens] kind of gave a sense of girl power and I was so proud that something of the science fiction genre was represented with a strong female lead,” Landwer said.

As a woman in her 20s about to step into the real-world, and hopefully end up somewhere near the entertainment industry, this movie was hugely important to me. It wasn’t only the newcomer Rey who didn’t let men push her out of the pilots seat, or Captain Phasma whose evil approach is enough to rattle anyone, it was the mountains moved behind the scenes as well, by driven women like Kennedy.

All of these things combined produced a truly groundbreaking movie, both in sheer numbers of people reached and the new impact it will have. I hope, just like I was inspired at 6-years-old, that a young girl watches this newest installment with stars in her eyes and a few great female role models.

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